Controlling Clutter and Getting your House Organized

Clutter seems to be one of those things that gets out of hand if you don’t constantly keep on top of it. I hear people often complaining that they feel overwhelmed and just don’t know where to start to get their house and life under control.  You can sometimes feel like you are on the TV show “Hoarders” when every where you turn, there is junk and clutter.

I know, I have been there. I hate clutter but I live in a house with other people who are natural hoarders. They feel sentimental about every object, even if it’s no longer usable and are fine living with trash and junk around them. It’s a constant battle and occasionally, I am just too tired to fight it. That’s when things can get out of hand here very quickly and I have to jump back in before things get too out of control.

I hope after reading this article, you will feel better about getting your house in order and will know where to start.  First of all, realize, you will probably not get the house finished all in one sitting. It may take days or even weeks, depending on how much there is to do and how much time you have to devote to it.

Start with one room at a time and don’t move on to another room until the first room is finished. Doing one room at a time allows you to complete it so if you are interrupted or just get too tired to go on to the next room, at least you will have one room clean. That alone will give you a sense of accomplishment and give you the motivation to keep on your organizing and cleaning journey.

It’s best to start with the room that gets the most traffic or is closest to the front door. That way, if you have unexpected company, at least that room will be presentable.

Start at the door and work your way around the room, and go on to the middle of the room. Work on one drawer at a time, one cabinet at a time, and then go on to the next.

You will create 4 piles. You can use laundry baskets for those piles or cardboard boxes or trash bags.

The 4 piles are:

  • Giveaway-to a charity or a friend or family member who cold use it
  • Trash-I’d use a trash bag for this one. Put in anything that is obviously garbage or items that are broken or worn out and can no longer be used.
  • Somewhere Else– you want to keep these items, but they belong in another room or need to be stored elsewhere, such as the attic, basement or garage.
  • Keep-These are things that belong in the room you are working on.

If you have trouble deciding what to do with things and which pile they should go in, then ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it broken, or worn out or is still usable? If it’s broken, then throw it away. If it’s usable then go on to the next question.
  • If it’s still usable, do you still use it? If it has not been used in the past year, it’s time to give it away.
  • If it is something that you only use once or twice a year, can it be stored elsewhere? Like the attic?
  • If it’s something decorative, do you love it or is it just something else you have to dust? If you don’t love it, it’s time to give it away.
  • If the decorative item is something given to you as a gift and you feel guilty giving it away, think of it this way. You are giving it more honor by giving it to someone who will appreciate it rather than with you who is just keeping it out of guilt.

After you have de-cluttered everything in the room, take care of your 4 piles. First put away anything that belongs in that room. Put the things that belong in other rooms away where they belong. Put the things that are to be given away in your car to be taken to the charity or friend.  Throw away your trash.

Now it’s time to clean. Start at the top and work down. Use an extended duster, clean any cob webs on the ceiling or corners and dust your hanging fans. Wash windows and mirrors. Polish furniture. Dust baseboards and vacuum or mop your floors last.

After you finish this room, it’s time to take a break before going on to the next room. Get yourself a cold drink and  pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  Now go on to the next room.

Remember, it may take quite awhile to do this the first time but after it’s done, all you have to do is maintain it. And I realize, that’s the harder part. Look for tomorrow’s post on how to keep your house clean and organized.


18 thoughts on “Controlling Clutter and Getting your House Organized

  1. Thank you, Cathy, for sharing this thorough outline of how to get clutter under control.
    I love that you almost read my mind, as I got the end of the article, and was thinking, “yeah, but…how do I KEEP it de-cluttered?!”
    So, I’ll be waiting for the next steps.
    In the meantime, I also appreciated the suggestion to start with the room closest to the front door.
    I can see how that would feel much better than accomplishing clearing out a room that most will never see.
    Thanks again for the tips-
    Wishing you well-

  2. Hi Cathy,

    I agree that when one loses the emotional attachment ‘curse’ that it become a so much easier to de-clutter ruthlessly.

    I do this frequently, mostly because I find it so cathartic and exhilarating to make space in my life. Somehow doing it with a physical space also gives me more space in my head.

    I have to agree with Nanette though, I am not that good with maintenance so I am off to read your follow up post too.

    In the mean time I’m sharing your excellent tips with my followers too.


  3. I feel so much more at peace when I live in a clean, clutter free environment. I agree, it does seem to give you more room in your head too!

  4. Hi Cathy,

    I do declutter at least once in two months. I do usually giveaway rather than throwing. My Dad is a pastor and we do outreach ministries in villages where there are poor people.

    So we collect our stuff and give them to our church’s co-pastors who distribute them to those people.

    If my house or working environment is cluttered I feel that my mind is cluttered too. I just cannot be productive in a cluttered environment and I do know if such an addiction is a good thing.

    Thanks for sharing the great stuff.


    1. I feel that way too Jane about my mind being cluttered if my house is cluttered. I even get depressed.

      I agree with giving away. I give it away unless it’s broke or stained. I know some people sell it on ebay or craigslist but I like the idea of helping others.

  5. Cathy, aloha. What a pleasure it is meeting your through your blog. Love the clear and actionable steps you are giving people in this.

    Because I do not like clutter, I am quite ruthless when it comes to getting rid of things that no longer work for us.

    For instance, my closet only has the clothes that I wear because long ago I made a promise to myself that if I bought something new, it had to replace something existing. Cathy, believe me, that stops a lot a purchases and saves a lot of time that would otherwise be spent in de-cluttering.

    Years ago when we moved from Oahu to the Big Island, we were in a home temporarily for about 20 months. Because we kept thinking we were moving, we had numerous boxes that we never unpacked. When we did move, my feeling was that if I did not need what was in those boxes during a 20 month period, I did not need them in my house. Cathy, I gave them away without every opening it. Never did I have a moment of regret nor have I ever missed something that may have been in one of those boxes.

    Look forward to visiting again soon, Cathy. Best wishes for a terrific week. Aloha. Janet

    1. Wow, I’m impressed Janet! You actually got rid of those boxes without looking in them. I don’t know if I would have been that brave but I’m pretty sure I would have gotten rid of most of it after checking to see what was in them.

  6. Hi Cathy!

    Mmmmm… I’m definitely guilty of letting the clutter pile up. Even when we do clean up at my place my 18 month old daughter is an expert at re-cluttering!

    As Marcus mentioned, living space has a big impact on headspace, so I like to keep my working areas clean and clear…

    I’m definitely open for more tips on how to do that better though!

    All the best,

  7. Uh, yeah I know where you are coming from with your 18 month old. My little 20 month old grand daughter lives with me and she’s like a miniature tornado. She leaves a big mess wherever she goes. I sometimes wonder how I handled 3 of these little people at the same time without going crazy. LOL.

  8. Hello Cathy,

    I don’t really have this problem at home. My wife keeps things pretty well organized. I can remember when I had an office job, I learned how to organize my desk by using stacking trays. You can imagine how high the stack got after while.

    Lou Barba

  9. Hi Cathy,

    This is such a great strategy for decluttering your home.. and your life

    I love that you teach people to break this monumental task down into smaller bites (in your case, rooms) that don’t seem so insurmountable. It’s the same approach I use in teaching business building.

    To build a business seems like a huge and overwhelming task. But if you break it down into bite size tasks with defined endpoints, you can easily accomplish your mini goals.

    In your case, your mini goals is each room. And I also love that you preach not going on to another room until the first one is completely done. If you go to one room today and another room tomorrow, pretty soon all you’re left with is a half cluttered home with no room completely cleaned out.

    Thanks for this post. I’m off to clean my closet! 🙂

  10. Hello Cathy,

    I guess this is something all moms struggle with and my mum is no exception.

    Through her I have learnt to understand that creating space helps in the creative process and also helps others too in terms of realizing the importance of getting organized, though it could be an excruciatingly slow process.

    Like the actionable steps, Cathy!Thanks for sharing them with us.


  11. Hi Cathy,

    Nice blog and this is awesome post about getting your house organized.

    Thanks for sharing this useful guide for decluttering your house!

    Have a great weekend and keep up the good work.


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